Student Success

Historically Black Institutions Pursue Higher College Completion Rates with Complete College America

Two organizations working to increase the number of people who earn a college education have teamed up to boost graduation rates particularly from the nation's black colleges. The Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), named for the first African-American Justice on the Supreme Court, and Complete College America (CCA) will work together to make CCA's resources and technical help available to those institutions known as "Historically Black Colleges and Universities" and "Predominately Black Institutions."

The first endeavor will be to collect "completion data" from participating schools, following recommendations laid out in a technical guide released by CCA in 2014. The 30-page "Common College Completion Metrics" is a set of concepts, data elements and definitions intended to increase the consistency and commonality across states in reporting benchmark data. The data is intended to act as a baseline against which to measure progress and will include graduation rates, credit accumulation, time to degree and remediation rates, among other information.

The College Fund will also kick off a "Fifteen to Finish" program with its member institutions. This CCA best practice encourages students to take 15 or more credits each semester to help ensure they graduate within four years. The problem traditionally has been that federal financial aid policies have only required students to be enrolled in 12 credits each semester to be eligible for assistance, thereby evolving that number of credits into an informal standard regarding the number of courses required to be considered a full-time student.

The two organizations will be hitting up its philanthropic partners to fund implementation of the CCA initiatives within the minority-serving institutions.

As a result of its commitment, the College Fund will be joining CCA as a member of its Alliance — a network of states and various institutional consortia that have committed to increase the number of students successfully completing college.

"It's no secret that black college graduation rates could be higher. TMCF is committed to be a part of the solution to educate, empower and encourage students on our campuses to stay the course, finish the race and graduate," said Johnny Taylor Jr., president and CEO, in a prepared statement. "The strategic alliance with CCA is timely and I have no doubt will lead to positive outcomes for our students and member-schools. This is a new day for black colleges."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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